With today being July 30, the MLB season has reached or is approaching a handful of milestones.
Over the weekend, every team played game number 100, and with the trade deadline tomorrow, we’re roughly at the “two-thirds” pole in terms of the calendar and the number of games played.
Many figured the Yankees and Rangers would be at the top of the AL, the Nats were favored to have a breakout season, and a handful of teams that started slow (like Detroit and the Angels) have found their way back towards the top.
But did anyone see any of the five stories below coming?
No. 1: The Reds are the best team in baseball
Through Sunday, they were 61-40, which is tied for MLB’s best record, and had won 10 in a row…all without perennial MVP candidate Joey Votto. That all starts with pitching, as the five men in the rotation on Opening Day have made all 101 starts through Sunday, and Aroldis Chapman has 21 saves in 24 chances, a 1.45 ERA, and a K/9 ratio above 17.
But, give credit to the hitters, especially as they’re without their best; Todd Frazier (.277-11-35) has been excellent as a fill-in for Scott Rolen and now Votto, Brandon Phillips and Jay Bruce are having their usual solid seasons, and the three-man outfield quasi-platoon of Chris Heisey, Ryan Ludwick, and Drew Stubbs has 32 homers and 100 RBI in roughly 800 at-bats.
No. 2: The Pirates are 24 wins away from their first winning season since 1992
Who would’ve guessed that trading for the much-maligned A.J. Burnett would have been one of the spring’s best moves? The resurgent former pie-master is 12-3 with a 3.52 ERA through Sunday, and has anchored a Pirates rotation that has gotten quality campaigns from James McDonald and Kevin Correia and just added Wandy Rodriguez.
On the hitting side, Andrew McCutchen deserves every MVP vote he gets, and adding Starling Marte into a lineup that includes legit bangers in Garrett Jones and Pedro Alvarez, a soaring Neil Walker, and two guys in Casey McGehee and Rod Barajas who can be power sources, and this lineup looks scary all of a sudden.
No. 3: The entire AL East is at or above .500
Yeah, everyone said it was the toughest division in baseball, but almost into August, every team is right there, and Boston is in last place despite a 51-51 mark. No other division has more than three teams at or above even.
No. 4: Oakland is a playoff team
“If the playoffs started today,” then the Angels would be at O.co Coliseum for the wild card play-in. The pitchers have done what they needed to do to win, and between a guy they shockingly outbid everyone for (the .305-14-54 Yoenis Cespedes), a breakout star no one expected (the .270-22-50 Josh Reddick) and a surging call-up (Brandon Moss, he of the 11 homers in 116 at-bats), the middle of their order has become a strong one.
No. 5: The fall of the Phillies
It’s been a rough year for the City of Brotherly Love, as a team that has won five straight NL East titles is in the basement, 12 ½ games out of even the second wild card and injuries this season have proven why Howard, Utley, Lee, and Halladay make so much money.
The big pieces in both their rotation and the lineup are safe, but that said, don’t be surprised if the next 24 hours are the last ones in Philly for role guys like Juan Pierre and Ty Wigginton…or even “name” free agents to be Joe Blanton and Shane Victorino. After all, now’s the time to see if Domonic Brown and/or Tug Hulett can hack it, and Tyler Cloyd (13-1, 1.98 at Double-A and Triple-A) has certainly earned a few September starts, right?